Saturday, October 21, 2017

Quote Of The Day: Why Denying Eternalism Forces You To Accept Brute Facts



A few years ago when I was completely obsessed with the philosophy of time I read many papers for and against presentism and eternalism. In one paper called Presentism and Relativity philosopher Yuri Balashov and physicist Michel Janssen write that in order to maintain presentism one has to lose the explanatory power of the "space-time interpretation" or B-theory (which is eternalism). Lorentz invariance becomes an accidental property "shared by all laws effectively governing systems in Newtonian space and time." I've written in the past that without eternalism length contraction in special relativity becomes inexplicable. It "just is" that way with no apparent explanation. Balashov and Janssen argue it's not the thing that becomes inexplicable.

In the neo-Lorentzian interpretation it is, in the final analysis, an unexplained coincidence that the laws effectively governing different sorts of matter all share the property of Lorentz invariance, which originally appeared to be nothing but a peculiarity of the laws governing electromagnetic fields. In the space-time interpretation this coincidence is explained by tracing the Lorentz invariance of all these different laws to a common origin: the space-time structure posited in this interpretation (Janssen 1995, 2002).[22]
The argument can be made in different ways. Einstein made it in the opening paragraph of the 1905 paper with the help of his famous magnet-conductor example: for the current measured in the conductor only the relative motion of magnet and conductor matters, but in Lorentz’s theory the case with the magnet at rest is very different from the case with the conductor at rest. No matter how the argument is made, the point is that there are brute facts in the neo-Lorentzian interpretation that are explained in the space-time interpretation. As Craig (p. 101) writes (in a different context): “if what is simply a brute fact in one theory can be given an explanation in another theory, then we have an increase in intelligibility that counts in favor of the second theory.” We just presented such an argument in the case of the space-time interpretation versus the neo-Lorentzian interpretation. The argument is not iron-clad and may still be outweighed by the needs of theology or quantum mechanics. But it is on a par with, say, the argument for preferring Darwinian evolution over special creation. That is good enough for us. (emphasis mine)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Video: Losing Our Religion


A few years ago over on the PBS News Hour they had a segment on the recent PEW results which showed a dramatic drop in the number of self-identified Christians in the US and a rise in the non-religious. It's worth a watch to hear their analysis. One interesting moment is when they touch up on whether a deeply religious country is a good thing in and of itself and something to be preserved. It'll be interesting to see what further declines will occur in the coming decade. I predict that religion has entered a steep and irreversible decline, but we'll see.



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The "God Has Morally Sufficient Reasons" Theodicy


It's been a bad few months in terms of natural disasters. Back-to-back hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated countries and regions in the Caribbean that were already struggling financially, killing at least 59 and 75 people, respectively. Prior to this, hurricane Harvey slammed east Texas dumping more than 25 trillion gallons of water, flooding the Houston metro area and gulf coast with as much as $180 billion in damages, and killing at least 82 people in the process. A series of earthquakes rocked southern and central Mexico killing at least 422 people, including 25 children at a school. Thousands more were injured, and perhaps millions more were affected by property damage from the natural disasters.

It's in times like these that I'm reminded of the problem of evil — specifically natural evil. Natural evil is an evil for which "no non-divine agent can be held morally responsible for its occurrence." Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires, droughts, meteor impacts, and diseases that cause sentient beings to suffer or die and for which no human being is responsible are examples of natural evil.

Natural evil doesn't exist on atheism since there is no conscious creator, designer, or sustainer to nature. But since many theists do believe nature has a creator, designer, and sustainer who is also omnibenevolent — meaning perfectly and infinitely good, there is big problem with natural evil on most forms of theism, particularly Christian theism. To deal with the stinging issue of natural evil, theists have come up with theodicies, which are attempts to explain why an omnibenevolent deity can coexist with moral and natural evil.

Once such theodicy is what I'm going to call the "God has morally sufficient reasons" to allow evil theodicy, or the MSR theodicy. According to the MSR theodicy, god allows natural evils so that some good thing can come from it at a later time, kind of like how the pain you endure at the dentist (an experience I had the other week) is all for the greater good of having healthy teeth. It appears that the MSR theodicy is a variation of the soul building theodicy, which says that natural evils can be god's way of challenging moral agents to goodness or some soul building benefit.

Quote Of The Day: Sean Carroll On The Big Bang


Later on this year, probably in December, I'm going to be giving a talk at a Long Island Atheists event on how atheists can better answer some of the most common challenges they face. It's going to be called Make Atheism Great Again, and will be a preview of my talk at The Atheist Conference.

While making the PowerPoint presentation I made a slide featuring physicist Sean Carroll with a quote from his debate with William Lane Craig on God and Cosmology. It mentions the problem most people have with understanding the big bang — particularly Craig, who I think knows better, and yet continues to claim that on atheism the universe just "pops" into existence. Carroll sets the record straight, but don't expect Craig et al. to learn from it. Their job requires they deny this.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thinking About Taking The Pro-Truth Pledge


I've been a bit busy lately and haven't had much time to blog. I've been working with friends on putting together the first ever atheist conference in New York City and it's taking up much of my time. I'm currently in charge of recording and editing video promos for the event and this takes weeks of commitment. I'm also in charge of maintaining the site and various other event planning details.

I will have much more on this event in the upcoming weeks and months, but if you're interested, check out our site TheAtheistConference.com right now. Tickets just went on sale last week. We haven't heavily promoted it yet because we're waiting for a big event. But when the grand announcement is made, it will be made on all of our social media, including our Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as my site of course. I will also be speaking at the event moderating a panel. Stay tuned!

I also have many lengthy blog posts in the pipe that will be published later this month, including a critique of the "God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing suffering" theodicy.

I will also be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this weekend for the annual Pennsylvania State Atheist/Humanist Conference. The Gotham Atheist contingent and I are going down there to help out and promote our conference. So that's going to take a few days away from blogging. I will hopefully have a lot in the second half of the month.


I've caught wind of the pro-truth pledge that's being talked about. In the age of Trump and rampant lying, asking people to take a pledge towards telling the truth is a necessity. There are people who are willing to lie about anything in order to further a political, economic, religious, or social goal. The ends always justifies the means, and it's leading to horrible behavior.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Zerin Firoze: Ex-Muslim Activist



A friend of mine who's a rising star in the secular, atheist, and ex-Muslim communities speaks publically about her experiences coming out of Islam, telling her story of the abuse and sexism she endured in its name. In this meme here she criticizes the professional liar and obscurantist Reza Azlan on his views on Bangladesh. He lies constantly about the treatment of women in Muslim majority countries, saying such nonsensical things like "in Indonesia women are absolutely 100% equal to men," which is empirically false.

He tells ignorant white Western liberals what they want to hear, and in the process, allows the sexism and homophobia in the Islamic world to persist. Reza is not dumb. He knows exactly what he's doing. He knows the majority of liberals listening to him will swallow his words whole and will not fact check a thing he says. He knows we all have an innate confirmation bias. And this is why we need to all be critical thinkers aware of our cognitive biases who fact check claims we want to believe are true.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

An Analysis Of A Former Liberal Turned Trump Voter's Reasons In "Waking Up"


I came across a blog post by a "gay, former liberal" describing his experience "waking up" out of liberalism to support Donald Trump for president. While reading it I saw a number of problems with his logic and so I'm going to critique them here. It's very important we get out of our echo chambers and understand the mindset of those who think differently from us and know where exactly they go wrong.

The blogger is named Josh and describes himself as a "32-year-old single Christian gay guy, who is helping raise his 3 year old niece." Fair enough. One can be conservative and gay, and technically one can be Christian and gay, especially since nowadays just about every Christian makes up his or her own version of Christianity to suit their personality.

In his post Josh describes how he started out not being particularly political, but interested in conspiracy theories, and then later jettisoned that interest and got deeper into politics in the beginning of the last presidential election cycle. He writes,

Then something gradually happened… while watching the debates to crack jokes, I began internalizing the information, suddenly finding my eyes to begin opening. I became aware of ISIS, and others with the desire to come to America for the purposes of ending our way of life, and illegals pouring through our borders, costing taxpayers billions, and contributing to crime. I discovered our Veterans were being treated poorly, many homeless on the streets, while others are allowed to come to the United States illegally, reaping the benefits. A wide range of issues really started to resonate with me.

A few things. Yes ISIS are evil people hell bent on destroying our way of life (you know, the liberal way) and are driven by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. It's good to be aware of that and Democrats far too often do not acknowledge this.

Illegal immigration since the financial collapse in 2008 has been slightly declining — meaning, there's been a net decrease for nearly 10 years. But Josh is completely ignorant of that data, as is Trump, and almost all of his supporters.

As for the cost to tax payers, there's mixed data on this. Some right-leaning sources have the annual cost to tax payers at $113 billion, and many of these studies rely on estimates and include the cost of US born children of illegal immigrants who are themselves US citizens. Other studies have the number closer to $85 billion, and left-leaning sources say that there's an over all net-positive due to the consumer demand, tax revenue from income tax, payroll taxes, and the positive economic impact of lower priced goods from the cheap labor. But one thing's clear: giving illegal immigrants legal status and cracking down on work places that hire illegal immigrants off the books so that they do not pay taxes would dramatically lessen the tax burden they have on US tax payers.

And finally when it comes to the "contributing to crime" claim, it's true. Some illegal immigrants contribute to crime. But you know what? Some tourists contribute to crime. Should we ban tourists then? Of course not. Merely contributing to crime is not a justification to deport all illegal immigrants. You can't expect 11 million people to be completely crime free. Studies also show the crime rate of illegal immigrants is lower than that of native citizens. And over all crime in the US has dropped over the last 25 years, just as the numbers of illegal immigrants was rapidly increasing.

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